Thursday, December 2, 2010

Borneo soon

This shelter is a Rob Bell of Mountain Laurel Designs creation, a tropical tarp to cover a Go-Lite Shangri-La nest. The idea is to hang something outside to keep rain off, yet offer up some airflow across a bug net to keep the inch long ants and terrestrial leeches off our sleeping bodies. The tent's intended for tropical rainforest camping, something we have done a bit of over the last couple decades, starting with Hawaii, passing through the Caribbean and Costa Rica, but finding its ultimate expression in Borneo, where the tropical trees are tallest and the canopy-dwelling animals wildest (IMHO).

In a few weeks we Dials will be roaming to Borneo. That's all of us -- Peggy, Jazz, Cody Rome, and me -- heading to Sabah for a couple of weeks watching wildlife, eating tropical fruit (durian!), and sweating in the equatorial heat and humidity.

We first went as a family in Dec-Jan 1995-96, when the kids were six and eight. We went to Kalimantan to visit Gunung Palung National Park (often featured in National Geographic Magazine with photos by Tim Laman). What an influential adventure that was. We flew to Singapore, then Kuching in Sarawak, then Pontianak in Indonesia. There we rode a small boat for five hours across the Kapuas River delta, biggest in Borneo. The boat dropped us in Teluk Melano, a malarial town with a never-ending stream of timber floating past. Old-growth, primary forest cut for plywood to hold concrete forms in China, Japan, and the US then thrown away.

From there we rode motor cycles on single track through cut-over jungle to a village and hired two guys in a small dugout to paddle us upstream for 12 hours to a research station rotting beneath giant dipterocarp trees. The animals and the plants and the purity of the place was remarkable. We drank from a stream flowing off Gunung Palung, the steep, wild mountain behind camp, as it flowed right past the camp. Twice daily we'd bathe in its cool refreshing waters and the kids delightedd in wading, snorkling and catching "toe-nibblers" and "needle-nose" fish that looked like they were right out of a freshwater aquarium. We watched gibbons and orangutans, caught giant millipedes and big green lizards. We saw ants as big as your finger and deer the size of your boot.

We returned the following year when I taught an APU tropical ecology class there but by then the log poachers were encroaching and the wildness was fading fast.

I've been back to Borneo many times since then, including a two month stint at Danum Valley with Roman doing a research project on canopy structure, microclimate and arthropods. Most recently, Peggy and I included Sabah and Sarawak on our round the world trip in 2008-2009. The really neat spires, the jags of limestone rearing out of the jungle, are in Mulu National Park, Sarawak. There are other sights from Tawau Hills Park, Kinabatangan River, and Danum Valley. The big spiky fruit is the stinky but oh-so-tasty durian....always a highlight of any visit.

This trip should be good, too. We are all excited as it's been 15 years and the kids are now adults strongly molded by the memories of their childhood visits to Borneo.


  1. that video was very inspiring, thank you for that.

    Is that a MLD Trailstar???

  2. Thanks for the comment and glad you like the video.

    It's an MLD custom job that i asked Ron to make.

  3. I <3 this, Roman! I wish you and your family an unforgettable time, its going to be epic, I am sure - please bring plenty of videos and photies back!

  4. Thank Hendrik, We'll do our best to bring back a good story.

  5. Sweeeeeet!

    What a gorgeous place! How was the camping? perfect slinging of the shangri-la for the heat. Thanks for the trip.


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